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Medical community urges President to address immediate needs

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A doctor protesting medical shortages

The Presidents of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), Medical Professional Colleges and Associations (working in collaboration as SLMA Medical Intercollegiate Committee (SMIC) have written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urging him to address the acute shortage of essential medicines, reagents, equipment and consumables in government hospitals and the private healthcare sector.

Decisions have already been made to curtail some services such as routine surgical operations and even limit the usage of available material to life-threatening illnesses, the medical professionals have pointed out.

“This is not at all a sound policy becauuse what is considered non-emergency situations could turn into life-threatening problems within a few hours. In addition, this is not a sustainable policy and unless urgent replenishment of supplies is made, within a matter of weeks, if not days, emergency treatment will also not be possible. This will result in a catastrophic number of deaths, which is likely to be in excess of the combined death toll of COVID, tsunami and the civil war.”

The medical professionals have pointed out that health encompasses physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing of people. Therefore, they are greatly concerned about the shortages of food and essential paraphernalia for people to provide themselves with basic needs, such as nutrition, transport and electricity.

“We are also concerned gravely about the need to preserve fundamental rights and guarantee basic freedoms such as right to information as these encompass important aspects of mental and social wellbeing of a population,” they said.

Given below are excerpts of the letter: “We have identified how we, as a group of professionals, could extend our help to the authorities to overcome the crisis, and list them below.

1. We accept that the current crisis has no immediate solutions and are willing to extend our expertise, guidance and advice to you at this moment.

2. We have initiated discussions with our members on preservation of the existing stocks of medicines and consumables to last for as long as possible (which may be only a very short-term solution) by prudent use. We do appreciate that even patients having non-emergency and non-urgent illnesses require optimal care and withholding their treatment will pose medical and ethical problems for the doctors of the country.

3. We pledge to regularly meet and discuss with the ministers holding health related portfolios as well as your good self and provide guidance and advice to provide the most equitable distribution of severely restricted medical supplies.

In addition, we request your kind cooperation on the following aspects.

1. We urge you to discuss with ministers holding relevant portfolios, public officials such as Secretary to Treasury, Secretary Health and Governor of the Central Bank about securing funding to fulfill the basic needs of the hospitals and the National Immunisation Programme of the country. This is an urgent priority.

2. Whilst accepting the immediate crisis, we wish to know from you and relevant officials’ details of your plans to meet the exigencies related to health and wellbeing of the population. We request a clearly laid out road map with time frames to be provided at the earliest possible time. We can then in turn do our duty in reassuring the medical community as well as the general public that solutions to the pressing health and wellbeing issues are forthcoming.

We do accept that these are difficult times for you as well as all the citizens of the country. The need of the hour is to be truthful, compassionate and for you to use the country’s intellectual resources in the form of expert advice and guidance from professionals.

We in the medical profession stand firmly committed to doing everything possible to preserve the health and wellbeing of the people of Sri Lanka in this crisis. We do believe that you share our ideals and sentiments expressed regarding the health of the nation and its people.

Please be kind enough to grant us an urgent appointment to meet your Excellency with top officials of the Ministry of Health to discuss and develop a contingency plan. We will provide our fullest support to mitigate the crisis. We wish to thank you, in advance, for your most kind consideration of the contents of this communication.”



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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence

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Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks

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Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty

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Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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